Local leaders protest federal approval of seismic testing

By on December 3, 2018

A ship tows a seismic array. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

Already on record as opposing offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, the chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and Nags Head’s mayor have sent out a letter protesting the National Marine Fisheries Service’s recent decision to approve seismic testing for undersea reserves.

Chairman Bob Woodard, who wrote the letter to media outlets with Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon, noted Monday that governors up and down the East Coast have objected to offshore testing and drilling. Coastal towns and counties have also rejected the idea.

Five companies will be testing in the same areas, he said, and even if no reserves are found, the process using sound waves threatens marine life.

“I would encourage you to continue to speak out,” Woodard said at today’s board meeting. “I know that our board is unanimous in opposition to this.”

Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service gave its go-ahead for seismic surveys for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic, approving five companies for incidental harassment of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Seismic blasting cannot begin until the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, issues its final permits.

The service’s Incidental Harassment Authorizations require monitoring, reporting and mitigation to reduce the harmful effects on marine mammals. Observers will be on board survey vessels to listen and watch for marine life and alert operators if a protected species comes within a certain distance.

Restrictions will be placed on operations to eliminate or reduce the affects on sensitive species in their preferred habitats. Acoustic monitoring to detect marine mammal vocalizations will be required. Seismic operations are to be phased in gradually to alert animals in the area and reduce potential for exposure to intense noise. Shutdowns will be required when certain sensitive species or groups are observed.

The authorizations cover operations along the Atlantic Coast from Cape May, N.J., to Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In developing its requirements for the authorizations, National Marine Fisheries said it reviewed five separate applications from companies involved in geophysical surveys using airgun arrays in the Atlantic Ocean and listened to public feedback on both the applications and proposed authorizations.

The five companies are CGG, ION GeoVentures, Spectrum GEO Inc., TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co. and WesternGeco.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Donna Wieting, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said NOAA Fisheries had done “a very thorough job” in reviewing public comments and responding to them.

The authorizations are valid for one year after an approved company notifies NOAA Fisheries, as required, that they are set to begin surveys. The latest expiration date for authorizations is Nov. 30, 2020.

Environmental advocates noted Friday that BOEM had previously denied permits based on the risks to marine life outweighing the value of any information to be gleaned from the surveys.

“This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at the group Oceana.

“These permits were already denied because of the known harm that seismic airgun blasting causes. President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale — all in the pursuit of dirty and dangerous offshore oil. This is the first step toward offshore drilling in the Atlantic and we’re going to make sure coastal communities know what’s happening and fight this.”

Oceana announced it had launched an interactive “We’re Watching” map to track seismic vessels in near real-time off the East Coast.

Also, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, which represents more than 42,000 businesses and 500,000 commercial fishing families from Maine to Florida, condemned the action.

“The Outer Banks business community depends on a clean and beautiful coast to support our multi-billion-dollar tourism, recreation and fishing industries,” said Karen Brown, president and CEO of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and also a member of the alliance. “The release of these permits puts us one step closer to oil-covered beaches and economic disaster.”

Coastal Review Online contributed to this story.





  • surf123

    Blowhards. Sending a letter is nothing but a waste of time. There is nothing they can do so just move on to more pressing issues that have solutions.

    Monday, Dec 3 @ 4:21 pm
  • KDH

    Thought we were past this
    Now we have Betty’s plastic
    Bags..no Betty just her bags
    Menhaden boats taking all
    The bait fish along with the
    Bycatch..no wonder fishing’s
    Slow and now this again
    NMFS is borderline criminal..

    Monday, Dec 3 @ 6:23 pm
  • Shaun

    Your local leaders can protest all they want. Your state leaders built a bridge over Oregon Inlet that will easily accommodate OSV’s. (Offshore Supply Vessels) Hmm.

    Monday, Dec 3 @ 9:14 pm
  • Czarina

    Ignorance is NOT bliss, surf123. Big business is pushing to ruin the Atlantic. You want dirty, oily water littered with dead sea life? You want the tourism dollars to disappear which will cause the taxes to go up and the jobs to go away?

    Tuesday, Dec 4 @ 7:59 am
  • surf123

    @Czarina if you have a gasoline powered vehicle, use plastic goods of any type, or use a good number of chemicals you are part of the problem. That includes any products that have oil consumption as part of their manufacturing or delivery. Until people are done with oil-based products and consumption everyone needs to chip in and that includes drilling. The OBX is a huge energy burner with its tourist based economy. There is overconsumption of every type of resource by the tourists and to cater to their wants and needs.

    Tuesday, Dec 4 @ 10:46 am
  • Lance Manly

    Plastics are made from natural gas, not oil.

    Tuesday, Dec 4 @ 6:10 pm
  • Czarina

    Surf123 — still waiting for an answer to my question. Instead, you deflect and divert.

    Tuesday, Dec 4 @ 8:37 pm
  • Sean

    Shawn there won’t be any supply vessels entering or leaving oregon inlet. The trawlers cant even enter or leave. IT’S TO SHALLOW

    Tuesday, Dec 4 @ 8:45 pm
  • dave

    Oooooo…… a letter! That’ll scare ’em!

    Wednesday, Dec 5 @ 11:19 am
  • dave

    Hey Lance. Plastics are made from oil. Use your Google Machine.

    Wednesday, Dec 5 @ 4:15 pm
  • Son of a beach

    We don’t need the oil. We are currently producing a surplus of oil in this country w/o jeopardizing more oceanfront. And there are things we can all do to decrease use of oil/gas until electric vehicles are more viable – which will be very soon. Oil’s day is nearly past, like buggy whips 100 yrs ago. For Pete’s sake, look forward.

    Wednesday, Dec 5 @ 4:35 pm
  • surf123

    @Czarina I’ll take my chances for the convenience of reasonably priced oil-based products. Your argument is a complete deflection and standard talking points for the NIMBY crowd.

    @Lance Manly…Crude oil is an ingredient of plastic along with Natural Gas so we both were 1/2 right.

    Wednesday, Dec 5 @ 10:49 pm
  • Eugene

    Lance – Check your sources. You are a little wrong. Crude oil is still being used in plastics. Worldwide, the main source of raw materials for plastics is crude oil byproducts. Natural Gas is the dominant source (maybe 80%+) for the raw materials in the United States, but still requires drilling. The numbers are hard to come by because foreign governments don’t share the data. We refine billions of barrels of crude oil which means we have a lot of byproduct. Basically about 4% of a barrel of oil is derived into plastics. Plastics can also be made from cellulose and starches (renewable, compostable plant material). A great alternative to help the American farmer.

    They are looking/drilling for oil or natural gas off the Atlantic Coast; the two usually occur in adjacent pockets on continental shelfs. A great example is the Deepwater Horizon accident where the drill hit a pocket of of high pressure natural gas and the “industry” regulated blowout preventer failed. The drilling sites here would be a lot closer to our coast than they are in the Gulf. Good-bye tourism, fishing, and boat building. We have to look out for ourselves.

    Anyway, isn’t our President fixing the OPEC problem anyway? Why are we drilling here if he has a plan to stabilize the Middle East, keep our great ally Prince MBS happy, and get our military back to America?

    Thursday, Dec 6 @ 9:20 am
  • Lance Manly

    Oil has little to do with plastics in the US
    “Although crude oil is a source of raw material (feedstock) for making plastics, it is not the major source of feedstock for plastics production in the United States. Plastics are produced from natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing”

    Wednesday, Dec 12 @ 2:35 pm